Washington didn’t let a blowout loss to the hands of the Miami Heat sour their week—instead, they rebounded and were rewarded with an unexpected gift.
A few days after rookie guard Bradley Beal’s buzzer-beater edged out the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Verizon Center, the home fans once again let out a roar to welcome back John Wall, capping a wonderful week for the Wizards.
Jan. 6—Miami 99, Washington 71: The final score didn’t really reflect a competitive game by the Wiz on the road against the defending champions. Washington fell behind by eight points early but hung close with Miami until the bottom fell out in the final quarter. Miami outscored Washington 30-11 in the fourth quarter as the Wizards missed their last eight shots and Miami scored the last 21, avenging a December loss to Washington. Forward/center Kevin Seraphin led the team with 14 points but Washington needed more than that to keep up with LeBron James (24 points), Dwyane Wade (14 points) and Chris Bosh (17 points).
Jan. 7—Washington 101, Oklahoma City 99: Bradley Beal dribbled right and faked a shot, before leaning in for a floater that swished through the net as the buzzer sounded. Washington’s top pick in the 2012 draft earned a spot in the highlights of a lost season with a buzzer-beater against last season’s Finals runner-up. Kevin Durant returned to his hometown and dazzled supporters with 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, but even the All-Star’s contributions weren’t enough to top a big night from Beal. The shooting guard scored 22 points and hauled in five rebounds while connecting on five three-pointers. His jumper from the top of the free throw line iced the game, but his silky shooting kept Washington one step ahead of the stiff competition all night.
Jan. 12—Washington 93, Atlanta 83: Five players scored in double-figures for Washington, including John Wall, who made his season debut against the Atlanta Hawks and sparked the Wizards to a rare Verizon Center win. Wall entered the game halfway through the first quarter and the knee injury that kept him out of the first two months of action never appeared to be an issue for the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. Wall flashed the speed and athletic ability Washington has been sorely lacking, handing out four assists in 21 minutes of action and wowing the crowd on a few occasions. Wall (14 points, four assists) left the Verizon Center wanting more after he whipped a no-look, left-handed pass behind his back on an open fast break to Trevor Ariza, who finished with a dunk with just over a minute left in the game. A.J. Price and Beal led the team with 16 points each as Washington enjoyed another victory over a team above the .500 mark.
With Wall in uniform, the Wizards should get a three-month look at the proposed Wall-Beal backcourt that many fans have been clamoring for. His return comes at a good time as Beal continues to round into form—but Wall must be revved just to be back on the court again. Washington (5-28) may remain one of the worst teams in the league, but with both Wall and Nene back it won’t be because of lack of talent.